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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

When the parent becomes the student

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Moms and Dads teach.

Their kids learn.

That's how it' supposed to go, right?  From the time that little pink bundle of diaper-filling joy comes home with you until the day they're picking out paint colors for their first home, parents are to be the fonts of all wisdom and knowledge while the child is to be a sponge, absorbing and applying it thusly in their own lives.

Well, not all the time.

My son invited the family out Friday night--he's humping away as an staffer, helping to cover the ongoing film festival.   Between that, his obligations on the Marquette University school newspaper and--oh yeah, that other thing, what's it called?--classwork, audiences with him are at a premium.   When the opportunity comes, we jump at it, even if it's on his own terms.

Those terms often involve movies.   They are his life.  He'd love a job reviewing films and for now at least, he's living the dream.   And, he's taking us along for the ride.

We had no idea what he was taking us to--he was sufficiently vague over dinner, telling us only the title: "Searching For Sugar Man".   To say anything else, he told us, might ruin the film.   Dinner was spent catching up, and we went to the Downer Theater clueless as to what we'd be seeing for the next two hours.

Completely.  Blown.  Away.

"Searching For Sugar Man" isn't typical Hollywood fare: catch phrases, explosions, the occasional nude scene and a predictable plot meant to turn big box office numbers as big-name stars go through the emotions delivering an uninspired script.   Is it "The Godfather" or "Dancing In The Rain"?  No.  It was just a refreshing, inspiring, honest documentary that played out like a movie, real life drama and inspiration without a single big-name Hollywood star in sight.   If you go, I suggest that you see it the way we did--without a clue.   If you need further inspiration, here's the trailer.


Admittedly, "Sugar Man" isn't a movie I would've found on my own, or even stumbled upon by accident.

Enter my son.

It's amazing to see, as years go by and kids grow, how they become the teachers.  They turn you on to music.   They expose you to their likes.   They tell you--don't ask, but tell you--how they feel politically, socially, spiritually.  One of the under-sold delights about being a parent is watching your child become a person unto themselves, and to be so honored to have them share what they think and enjoy their likes with you.

One of the best nights of my life happened a few years ago when my daughter was doing a semester abroad in London.    We went for a week-long visit with her serving as our guide.   She taught us the etiquette of the London subway system, the ins-and-outs of pub life, the way to carry one's self without looking like a complete visiting rube.   And, toward the end of our time there, she took us out one night to a part of London off the beaten track, something few tourists would venture to on their own.   It was an authentic neighborhood full of ethnic restaurants where owners stood out on the curb and literally tried to bribe potential customers inside with samples, bargains and bravado.   She had a spot in mind and there, she and her friends were our hosts as a fascinating night played out--great food, adult conversation, a few cocktails, all in a town a half a globe away, a place where our little girl was being the worldly guide.  

There's a point in every young parent's life where you wonder if your child will ever grow up and, when they do, what it'll be like.   I was that dad then, and I'm that father now--watching my newlywed daughter become a responsible adult with a job and a husband and a mortgage.   And, I see it play out with a son who's about to enter the world but is eager to share his with us.   The occasions are few, but we take what we can get.  You wonder where the time went.   You savor those moments that come.

And, you hope for more nights like Friday.  


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